Switzerland is taking part in the Bologna Process in the field of higher education and in the Copenhagen Process in the sphere of vocational and professional education and training. Both processes aim to guarantee, at national and international level, permeability, transparency and mobility and hence in the European context to work towards strengthening Europe’s competitiveness as a learning location.
National Qualifications Framework for the higher education sector (nqf.ch-HS)
At European level there is a separate Framework of Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area (QF EHEA) developed under the Bologna process, which is fully compatible with the European Qualifications Framework (EQF).
The Qualifications Framework for the Swiss Higher Education Area (nqf.ch-HS) describes and defines the levels of higher education in Switzerland on the basis of admission conditions and qualifications inter alia. The qualifications framework serves the higher education institutions as a guide in developing and describing their study courses and programmes. It also improves information about the Swiss higher education system, particularly with regard to teaching. Finally, it facilitates the comparability of qualifications in Europe and enhances transparency.
The nqf.ch-HS provides an overview of Swiss higher education. It includes the cycles 1-3 Bachelor, Master and Doctorate as well as part of CET. In general, the cycles 1–3 are consecutive and the prerequisite for admission to the next level is a subject-specific degree in the preceding cycle.
Transfers from Bachelor to Master programmes at another type of higher education institution are possible and regulated in the agreement Permeability Between the Types of Higher Education Institutions of 5 November 2007. There are no regulations for crediting non-formal and informal learning. This lies within the responsibility of each higher education institution.
The Federal Act on Funding and Coordination of the Higher Education Sector provides for compulsory institutional accreditation. Within this context it is verified whether the qualifications framework is being taken into account by and integrated in the higher education institutions.
National Qualifications Framework for vocational and professional education and training
The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) is the basis for Switzerland’s National Qualifications Framework for Vocational and Professional Qualifications (NQF VPQ) and for the national qualifications frameworks of other European countries. It serves all European countries as a reference instrument and makes qualifications in Europe comparable with each other.
The Swiss vocational and professional education and training system trains highly skilled workers. However, there is little awareness outside of Switzerland of these qualifications. The NQF VPQ is intended to make it easier for people to understand how the Swiss education system works and to be able to compare Swiss qualifications with other qualifications elsewhere in Europe. With this aim in mind, all formal vocational and professional qualifications have been assigned to one of eight reference levels within the NQF VPQ. Using the EQF developed by the EU as a reference instrument, it is possible to compare Swiss qualifications with those of other countries.
The following types of qualifications are referenced to the NQF VPQ:
- Vocational education and training (VET): Federal VET Certificate and Federal VET Diploma.
- Tertiary level professional education: Federal Diploma of Higher Education with, Advanced Federal Diploma of Higher Education, federally recognised courses of education at Colleges of Higher Education leading to a Federal Diploma of Higher Education, and qualifications for VET professionals.
A certificate supplement is drawn up for each referenced vocational education and training (VET) leaving certificate, and a diploma supplement for each referenced tertiary level professional education leaving certificate. These documents contain information about the corresponding qualification. They enable potential employers both in Switzerland and abroad to better assess the professional competences of qualification holders.
The legal basis for the NQF VPQ is the Verordnung über den nationalen Qualifikationsrahmen für Abschlüsse der Berufsbildung [Ordinance on the National Qualifications Framework for Vocational and Professional Qualifications], which also defines the eight levels in its Annex.